|A Difficult Position
In May 1940, Linus Pauling received a letter from Nobel laureate Harold Urey. Urey had sent Pauling a form letter explaining William Allen White's position and
asking Pauling to collect signatures in support of the CDAAA cause. Pauling found
himself torn. As much as he believed in peaceful, rational resolution, he felt there
was little chance of the United States avoiding combat. Nevertheless, the idea of
committing American soldiers to the war, as advocated by the FFF, was unsettling to
him. He supported the ideals of the CDAAA but his coming actions would suggest he
believed war to be an inevitability.
Despite the immediacy of the violence in Europe, Pauling was also finding hope for
the future in a new movement spearheaded by Clarence Streit, an Atlanticist and major
proponent of the CDAAA. In 1939 Streit published Union Now in response to the ineffectiveness of the League of Nations. In his text, he argued
that western democracies should form an international governing body. By creating
a unified democracy, he claimed, participating nations would be protected both economically
and militarily, and be in an improved position to affect global change over time.
He believed that a powerful union of democracies would eventually spread democratic
ideals to other nations, preventing movements like Nazism.
Undeterred by a scathing response from philosophers and writers like George Orwell,
Ava Helen Pauling became deeply interested in Streit's work, even dedicating a scrapbook to newspaper
clippings and pamphlets related to the movement. Linus was soon convinced by his
wife's enthusiasm and the couple became charter members of the Pasadena Chapter of
Federal Union, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Streit's ideas. In a 1940
letter to Arthur Hill and his wife, Pauling wrote that he and Ava Helen were "working
on the Union Now plan for combining with the British democracies and on the Committee
for the Defense of America by Aiding the Allies."
For the first time in his life, Pauling felt the interest and desire to engage in
the political arena. On April 8, 1940, he gave a speech discussing the need for a
unification of democracies. Encouraged by his receptive audience, he delivered several
more talks during the summer and fall, including one on science and democracy at Caltech.
The Paulings' political work would only go so far, though. With a war growing in
Europe and U.S. isolationism beginning to wane, world government was of little concern
to most politicians and private citizens. Before long, even Pauling himself would
be forced to put aside his political ideals in the face of more immediate concerns.